Concepts of Society in Official Statistics. Perspectives From Mobilities Research and Migration Studies on the Re-Figuration of Space and Cross-Cultural Comparison

  • Katharina Manderscheid Universität Hamburg
Keywords: society, cross-cultural comparison, sociology of space, spatial analysis, re-figuration of spaces, survey research, quantitative research, administrational data, sampling, mobile methods, migration


Historically, the emergence of modern nation-states has been accompanied by the development of a specific understanding of the individual, population and society, spatial boundaries and affiliations. With the help of official statistics, which developed complementary to the nation states, political concepts became measurable categories and empirical realities. The relevance of official statistics for constitution of "society" lies in the fact that it forms the basis for sampling strategies in standardized social research and thus also for comparative cultural social research: As the key to generalizing research results from a few cases to larger scales, standardized research requires samples from defined populations. However, this approach has been criticized in the literature as a container approach for society because it presupposes rather than analyses congruencies between (national) territory, culture and society. The issue at stake is not a mere methodological flaw, but the effect of the sampling strategy is to affirm and naturalize the national framework of society and culture. This hides transnational social relations and identity frameworks. The critique of the outlined territorial concept of society forms the background for the analysis of specific problems and omissions in official statistics.


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Author Biography

Katharina Manderscheid, Universität Hamburg

Katharina MANDERSCHEID is professor for sociology, especially conduct of life and sustainability at the Department for Socioeconomics, Universität Hamburg. In her research, she focuses on the interrelations between spatial mobility, transport and social inequality and power, issues of sustainability, sociology of the future and questions of socio-ecological justice. She works with quantitative and qualitative research methods and also publishes on the development of mobile methods and methods for mobilities research.

The Refiguration of Spaces and Cross-Cultural Comparison I